One of the many great things you can do on your idevice is to watch movies on the go. While there are a lot of third party media players (VLC player, Air player, etc) that could play various formats such as avi, flv, and others, it is always better quality and size wise to go for formats that are primarily intended for the device. Why?

  • Some formats don't play smoothly (stutters, lags, audio/video sync issues, etc.)
  • Some formats are unnecessarily bigger in file size than needed (HD files such as MKV)
  • Some formats go over the resolution needed thus putting strain on processing and battery life
  • There is no possibility of editing and customising video settings

File conversion is the only solution to avoid these problems but as usual, it also has its down side.

  • Takes time
  • Can be heavy on the CPU

Personally, I prefer converting videos because of the following benefits:

  • I'm sure the video will play smoothly (no lags, stutters, audio is synced with video)
  • No additional apps needed to play it
  • 100% compatible with my device
  • Smaller file size
  • No unnecessary strain on processing thus better battery life
  • Video settings can be tweaked for advanced users (trim, split, join, etc)
  • Resolution will be right for my screen (no unwanted extra pixels)

Also, everyone needs to know the following facts before disregarding conversion:

  • Video quality will be limited by the resolution of the iphone/ipod's screen (320x480 or 960x640) so using a resolution higher than that will NOT be visibly better
  • People who use video out cables to watch videos on their HDTVs will only get a maximum of 576p output not 720p or 1080p so having videos over that will be overkill
  • There are also basic settings (bitrates and framerates) that make videos look and sound good but tweaking these to the right settings will give you the best converted quality from the original
  • Converting low resolution/quality videos to higher resolution (up converting) will NOT result in a better quality video than the original
  • The aspect ratio of the Iphone/Ipod Touch's screen is 3:2 unlike HD videos which are 16:9 or movies 21:9 so expect black bars or stretching on the video if you're using other aspect ratios

Now that all of that are out of the way, let's get into converting video files. First, we need a software to use and I highly recommend Freemake's Free Video Converter (click the name to download). It's 100% free and works like a charm.

Supports all Idevices with full customisations for FREE!

For beginners, just add the file you want to convert and choose the device you have but for advanced users, you may opt to tweak the output video settings by clicking on the gear icon. Below is my customised settings that will satisfy most users but you could always higher the bitrate and framerate to your liking. Just be wary not to go over the resolution, bitrate, and framerate of the original file or else you'll get a bigger size without any improvements. These can be seen by right clicking on the file and selecting properties. 

These settings will be enough for most users without compromising the size and quality.

For testing, I have converted a 720p MKV video that is originally 558MB. The result was a file that is 114MB (approximately 80% smaller) than the original. It is obvious that the quality was lowered when viewed on my PC screen but when viewed on my ipod touch, the quality was great without any problems. I prefer changing the bit rate and frame rate of the video to minimise the output size rather than limiting it (i.e. up to 300mb only) because longer videos such as movies will be compressed a lot. Also, video quality will not be consistent, meaning short videos will look better than longer videos.

For transferring videos and songs to your iphone/ipod touch without using itunes, you may use the previously discussed Copy Trans Manager to drag and drop files directly to your device. Click here to read more about free alternative programs to Itunes.

You may read about free alternative programs to itunes on the Blog.

Finally, as always, it boils down to you. If you have the time and a good PC to convert files, its very much worth it. 

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